Thursday, April 22, 2010

New Report Finds that Writing Can Be Powerful Driver for Improving Reading Skills

Although reading and writing have become essential skills for almost every job, the majority of students do not read or write well enough to meet grade-level demands. A new report from Carnegie Corporation of New York and published by the Alliance for Excellent Education (the Alliance) finds that while the two skills are closely connected, writing is an often-overlooked tool for improving reading skills and content learning. Writing to Read: Evidence for How Writing Can Improve Reading identifies three core instructional practices that have been shown to be effective in improving student reading.

“As the recent findings from the Nation’s Report Card in reading demonstrate, nearly 70 percent of the nation’s eighth graders fail to read at a proficient level,” said Bob Wise, president of the Alliance and former governor of West Virginia. “Poor reading and writing skills not only threaten the well-being of individual Americans, but the country as a whole. Ensuring that adolescents become skilled readers and writers is not merely an option for America; it is an absolute necessity. As Writing to Read demonstrates, instruction in writing not only improves how well students write, but also enhances students’ ability to read a text accurately, fluently, and comprehensively.”

Writing to Read is a part of a series of Carnegie Corporation of New York-funded reports intended to re-engineer literacy instruction across the curriculum to drive student achievement.  The initial report, Time to Act: An Agenda for Advancing Adolescent Literacy for College and Career Readiness and corresponding reports were published in September 2009.   Writing to Read is an extension of this work and provides practitioners with research-supported information about how writing improves reading while making the case for researchers and policymakers to place greater emphasis on writing instruction as an integral part of school curriculum.

“In an age overwhelmed by information, the ability to read, comprehend, and write—in other words, to organize information into knowledge—must be viewed as tantamount to a survival skill,” said Vartan Gregorian, president of Carnegie Corporation of New York.  “As Americans, we must keep our democracy and our society from being divided not only between rich and poor, but also between those who have access to information and knowledge, and thus, to power—the power of enlightenment, the power of self-improvement and self-assertion, the power to achieve upward mobility, and the power over their own lives and their families’ ability to thrive and succeed— and those who do not.”

The three closely related instructional practices that Writing to Read identifies as being effective in improving students reading are:

1)      Have Students Write About the Texts They Read.

Writing about a text enhances comprehension because it allows students with a tool for visibly and permanently recording, connecting, analyzing, personalizing, and manipulating key ideas in text. Students’ comprehension of science, social studies, and language arts is improved specifically when they:

·         Respond to a text in writing;

·         Write summaries of a text;

·         Write notes about a text; and

·         Answer questions about a text in writing, or create and answer written questions about a text.

2)      Teach Students the Writing Skills and Processes That Go Into Creating Text.

Students’ reading skills and comprehension are improved by learning the skills and processes that go into creating text specifically when teachers:

·         Teach the process of writing, text structures for writing, paragraph or sentence construction skills;

·         Teach spelling and sentence construction skills; and

·         Teach spelling skills.

3)      Increase How Much Students Write.

Students’ reading comprehension is improved by having them increase how often they produce their own text. The process of creating a text prompts students to be more thoughtful and engaged when reading text produced by others. The act of writing also teaches students about the importance of stating assumptions and premises clearly and observing the rules of logic. Students also benefit from using experience and knowledge to create a text as well as building relationships among words, sentences, and paragraphs.

"Writing to Read explains how building and strengthening writing skills can form a pathway to successful reading practices,” said Wise. “When students are required to write about what they learn, they are challenged to digest and organize the information in meaningful ways that enables them to successfully communicate the information to a second party. By forming these connections, students are better equipped to comprehend material as well as approach reading with a higher level of understanding and appreciation."

The brief carefully notes that writing practices cannot take the place of effective reading practices and calls for writing to complement reading instruction, stating that each type of practice supports and strengthens the other. With lower-achieving students, an important key to success is providing ongoing practice and explicit instruction.

The report, commissioned by Carnegie Corporation of New York and authored by Steve Graham and Michael Hebert (both from Vanderbilt University), builds on the ideas presented in a 2006 Alliance Report, Writing Next: Effective Strategies to Improve Writing of Adolescents in Middle and High School Literacy

Writing to Read: Evidence for How Writing Can Improve Reading is available at and

The Alliance for Excellent Education is a Washington, DC-based national policy and advocacy organization that works to improve national and federal policy so that all students can achieve at high academic levels and graduate from high school ready for success in college, work, and citizenship in the twenty-first century. For more information about the Alliance for Excellent Education, please visit


Webmaster said...

Nice articles. Success.
elementary school

Vera F. Birkenbihl said...

Dear Mr. Kantrowitz,
1. READING does not mean recognizung isolated letters (even if some schools behave as if it were). It is a process of recognizing letters, letter-groups, then words, groups-of-words, finally IDEAS.
2. WRITING is a system of translating sounds into characters, somewhat comparable with the writing of (musical) notes. some people find that (close to) impossible. Reading and writing are not "closely related". They are in fact different tasks.
3. The fact that SCHOOL pretends they are different sides of the same coins make millions of pupils distrust their abilities. Being told one is not "normal", one is unable to do what "everybody" should be able to do etc. is extremely harmful.
4. IF someone will practice WRITING this will allow the brain to build the necessary neural paths for RECOGNIZING letters and often used letter-groups. Thus WRITING enhances READING for everybody (neurophysiologically) while the inverse is only true for those few who happen to have a "knack" (gift) for READING. There are four communicative skills, not only two:
1. TALKING (most people can learn it but some prefer to listen).
2. LISTENING (hearing the sounds is not identical to really "taking it in". how good one is depends of the ability for social skills (E.Q.) and on how much one is interested by the subject.
These two abilities are easier to learn as we have aquired a genetic "disposition" which has to be activated by the environment (cf. what MATURANA + VARELA call "structural linkabe/coupling"). Nature has not prepared us likewise for the next two abilities (maybe in 800,000 years). Brain-Research has shown that READING is managed with neurons from the optical cortex and associating their form with words it is about as easy/difficult as SINGING notes from sheet music. Something many choir-singers have learned as opposed to WRITING notes one has heard (note-dictation); this task is much more complicated and more difficult; thus not everyone will be able to do as well.
Training will make students better but among those whose natural leanings are more geared to HEARING and SPEAKING language we will find fewer readers and vice versa: Among the bookworms (and geek) you will find many, who do not feel comfortable about human conversation, they prefer to READ and often also to WRITE...

I suggest to help students find out where their strengths lie and then let them develop these properly. Give them about 80% training into their strengths and 20% into their weakness. First, because we normally do the opposite and still millions of kids come out of school unable to do exactly the things they had been training particularly "hard" at (their weaknesses). Second because we would never tell a good basketball-player to practice golf in order to improve and then expect him to get better at basket ball. Why do we do that with academic tasks? THIRDLY it is good for our feeling of self worth training what we are good at, becoming better. Good feelings about ourselves kind of vibrate through the whole being and help us improve even in the 20%-weakness-training tasks, so that we will gain as much as if we had trained twice the time.
BOTTOM LINE: Schools have been concentrating on what students cannot do far too long. start doing the only richt thing and help them strengthening and "growing" their strengths because they will become better soon. Seems school has been doing it ALL WRONG but is totally unable to analyze and re-learn. interesting, since school is asking students to do just that, about 50 times every day!